Chapter 35

Keesha studied the pensive expressions. Her parents and Justus stood solemn and quiet. They made small talk when they first arrived, but soon that faded to tense silence. Hospitals did that to people. Yet, she sensed something was different. Something had changed. Her stomach knotted as fear took over.

"What is it?" she asked. "Talk to me. What's wrong?"

Her mother sat beside her on the bed. She squeezed Keesha's hand. "Darling, there's nothing--"

"Don't lie to her," her father interrupted.

"She'll only be upset," her mother argued.

"I'm here! Don't make decisions for me. I'm not a child."

"Lil Bit," Justus said. "Let's just take this slowly."

Her fear spread. She began to shake. "It's AJ, isn't it? You told me he was fine, but that's a lie. He's dead--"

"No," Justus said, moving to stand at the foot of her bed. "It's not that."

"He had a complication last night," her father explained. "He's in surgery."

"Will he be okay?" She held her breath, waiting.

"We're waiting for Tony," Justus said.

"Tony operated on Jason," she stated quietly. Unshed tears stung her eyes. "It's happening all over again."

"No, sweetheart." Her mother rubbed her hand.

Keesha jerked her hand from her mother's grasp. "Yes, Mother. That's why you didn't want me to know." She shifted on the bed. The movement shocked her body. Tiny pricks of pain jabbed her in numerous places. She ignored the discomfort as well as her family.

"I can't do it. I can't look into the eyes of someone else I love and not be recognized." Tears streamed down her cheeks. "I won't do it."

/+/

He had no business at the Quartermaine mansion. Except his daughter was there. Maya.

Emily didn't seem surprised to find Jason in the sitting room. She went to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. Her body shook with sobs. His arms automatically closed around her.

"What is it?" His voice was oddly quiet. "What's happened?"

"AJ..."

"Is he dead?" he asked. He didn't allow himself to think beyond the question. He couldn't. Not after their last conversation.

"No," she whispered through her tears, "but... He was in surgery for hours last night and early this morning. He may have brain damage. We won't know the extent until he regains consciousness. Maya's been asking for her parents. I don't know what to tell her. She's so young. Too young..."

Brain damage?

Jason stroked Emily's back while his mind focused on another woman. "How is Keesha?"

Emily pulled away. She vigorously wiped the tears from her face as she spoke. "She's not taking the news well."

Her gaze held his for just a moment. Jason recognized the immediate comparison. It was happening to Keesha all over again. The last time, she had AJ to turn to. Who would she lean on now?

"No one knows what to do for her," Emily said. "So, we're all praying that AJ will be fine. Because if he isn't..."

She didn't have to finish. He understood completely.

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